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Spca 12, California 11, Terri 10, Us 10, Griffin 9, Cnn 8, U.s. 5, Va 5, Brickmill 4, Afghanistan 4, Nepal 4, Baghdad 4, Mike Rioux 4, Mike 4, Michael Lynch 3, Arizona 3, Roy Tidwell 3, Verizon 3, Maggie 3, Mr. Woodson 2,
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  CNN    CNN Presents    News/Business. In-depth exploration  
   of complex current world events. (CC)  

    November 11, 2012
    2:00 - 3:00am EST  

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the week. we thank you for joining us. i'm don lemon. i'll see you back here tomorrow night. good night, everyone > welcome to this "360" special report, "the battlefield at home." the challenges facing vets, a tough economy, questionable charities and more. we look at charities, organizations promising to help wounded warriors, taking in tens of millions of dollars from well-meaning americans. what's happening to some of that money? a lot of good charities out there, but after what we've found and what you see tonight, you may think twice the next time someone asks you for a donation. that's a shame and that's why we're keeping them honest. starting with the group the disabled veterans national foundation, dvnf. that's their seal you're looking at. according to their own tax filings they raised nearly $56 million in the past three years, a huge amount of money. of that $56 million, we haven't been able to find even one dime that's gone directly to help
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disabled veterans. instead, the foundation sends tons of stuff, stuff they get for free, to veterans groups. now, the stuff they sent hasn't been even requested by these veterans groups. it's not even stuff the groups can use, thousands of bags of coconut m & ms. the stuff they get for free sits in box until the various veteran groups can figure out what to do with them. what do you do with 11,000 bags of m&ms? hundreds of pairs of surplus navy dress shoes this organization sent to a group, the group that got the shoes actually tried to sell them at a yard sale to raise money for the things they actually needed. cnn's drew griffin has tracked down the president of the dvnf to try to get some answers. here's how that went. >> you're the one from cnn. >> reporter: that's right. >> i really didn't think you'd do something like this. we've agreed to talk to you. answer -- >> reporter: nobody's agreed. so here is the question. it's $64 million raised over three years and none of the money has gone to any veterans. ma'am?
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>> he hasn't agreed to talk to them. still no answer. in the course of investigating the dvnf, we uncovered another charity that asks you to help veterans by opening your wallet but uses only a small percentage of it to actually help veterans. they call themselves the national veterans foundation but there's a connection to the dvnf. they use the same fund-raising company and that's where the trail of your money seems to lead. drew griffin is on that trail. >> reporter: the 27-year-old national veterans foundation would like you to believe it takes your money and puts it right back into its unique program, a national hotline to help veterans with anything. but cnn's investigation has found something the nvf likely doesn't want you to know. most of your contributions went to pay the private fund-raisers they hired. >> charity watch gives the national veterans foundation an "f" grade. they're only spending 12% on
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charitable programs. it's costing them $91 to raise $100. >> reporter: daniel borokof grades charities based on their own tax filedings. those filings show over the past three years the nvf has taken in $22.3 million in donations and paid out $18.2 million to its fund-raisers brickmill and the parent company quadriga art. but he says the filings show a common tactic used by charities. part of the money paid brickmill was designated in tax filings to pay for educational awareness promotional materials. those solicitations for donations that tell you all about the struggles vets have and why you should donate, that's the educational awareness and promotion material. >> the accounting is somewhat confusing to the public and so they could get tricked if they look at these tax forms or look
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at these superficial reviews of charities on the internet because what they're doing is they're calling that solicitation that makes you aware of the injured veteran a charitable program, but that's not what people want to pay for. people want to pay to offer substantial aid or assistance to injured veterans. that's not what's happened. >> reporter: the national veterans hotline is run out of an office in this building near los angeles international airport. the group told us they wouldn't speak on camera. we decided to go see them anyway. hey, rich. >> hi. you drew? >> reporter: yeah. just wanted to ask you one more time if we can chat. >> as we said, we've told you, we've made our statements. we've given them to you and we won't give any on camera. >> reporter: so you won't tell me what you told me on the phone on camera, that you're disappointed in this brickmill and quadriga? >> i believe if you read our statements it will cover everything that i've said and
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anything that you were -- any questions you have. >> reporter: it didn't. that's why i'm here. can we take some -- >> we prefer not on this subject. >> reporter: rich rudnick is the operations director for nvf and over the phone told us the charity hired brickmill and quadriga in 2008. to start a new donations campaign. "we were told for two years it would be very expensive, then we'd be going into the black. that never happened, he told us over the phone. but in person, neither rudnick nor its president shad meshad a man paid $121,000 a year would tell us anything. can we take photos of the guys answering the phone? this is where the toll free line comes in? >> it is the toll free line and we are busy and prefer not on this trip. >> reporter: all right. well, listen, thanks a lot. and shad is not around? >> he's never here in the mornings. >> reporter: shortly after the door closed on our cameras, cnn received this statement from the
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national veterans foundation saying, knowing what nvf knows now, it would not have entered into a six-year contract with quadriga art and brickmill. they're trying to terminate that contract which doesn't end for another two years. what does quadriga art say? it did what it was supposed to do, increasing the charity's donor base by 700,000 people. but even quadriga art admitted to cnn the fund-raising efforts did not prove as financially viable as the client had hoped. they, too, want to end the contract. and despite brickmill and its parent company getting paid more than $18 million, quadriga art says it actually lost money. daniel says, baloney. >> we have to ask, why is this going on? what's the point? who's benefitting other than the fund-raising company? >> drew griffin joins me now, also ken berger. the president and ceo of charity navigator, a charity watchdog group.
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i have to say i just find this unbelievable. drew, i applaud your reporting on this because this is outrageous. if people knew these organizations -- first of all, that first organization has not sent any money directly to disabled veterans and this one -- how much did that guy say, 81 cents on the dollar goes to the fund-raising organization? >> that's absolutely right. that's what is heartbreaking here because behind all these donations are americans who really want to help these veterans. that's why this is so disheartening. they're opening up their wallets, thinking they are doing good and putting money directly into the hands of a for-profit money that's making a kel killing off of this. >> you go to that office, they have an american flag, p.o.w./m.i.a. flag. if they cared about veterans, they should shut that organization down. if they're not happy with this contract they stupidly signed with this fund-raising company, shut it down. how do they sleep at night? i mean, i know you can't answer that question, but i would like to know. how do these people sleep at night?
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the kinds of contracts signed by nvf and, in the other instance disabled national veterans foundation, they're long, seems like they're hard to break. why go down that road? simply to expand their mailing list? >> here's what we found out in our reporting. some of quadriga art and brickmill's contracts with really big charitable organizations are specifically detailed with money amounts included, all kind of contract obligations that both sides have to meet, very specific. these contracts with these two groups that we're talking about, they're rather loose, not too much specific. it seems like quadriga art is driving the legal paperwork here and these charities are simply -- i don't want to put words in their mouth, but they look to me like they've been duped. >> ken, you monitor these charities. do you agree these are folks who have maybe been duped? do you advise that charities
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sign these contracts with a marketing firm like quadriga art? >> we say avoid them like the plague. we see this happening over and over again. >> this is not a surprise to you. >> no. in fact, we have plenty of zero rated groups, veterans, police, firefighters, the people who risk their lives in this country. and the charities associated with them, we see a preponderance of this in those kind of groups, that they sign these kind of contracts and whether it's consciously or whether they're ignorant and volunteers who are well intentioned, well, even if it's 99 cents to raise a dollar, that's still a penny. >> even if someone is naive, i question how well intentioned anybody can be if they're spending 99 cents to raise $1. that's outrageous. >> it is. it's horrific. there's no excuse for it. that's why our advice is to avoid these kind of arrangements like the plague. and if you're a donor, you
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should run with fear. >> how much should a charity, if that charity has a marketing firm, how much should they be paying out of a dollar they've raised? >> we generally say 10 cents on a dollar is the reasonable amount. the best charity, whether internal or through an external source, 10 cents on the dollar. that's what we see as the highest. >> there are so many good-hearted people, the fact dvnf made so much money, shows americans are good hearted. what should people look for before giving money? >> make sure the group is transparent. one of the things right away we say is, if you contact a group, call a group and they refuse to talk to you, whether the media or individual, be very afraid. >> anybody out there who wants to give money should go to charity navigator and really just you'll get a sense of what other good groups are out there that help vets or police or firefighters or any other charity. >> absolutely, yes.
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>> appreciate it, ken. drew, again, we'll keep on this. i think it's unbelievable. it's mind-boggling. again, if you're looking for reputable veterans charities, go to our web site, ac360.com or charitynavigator.org. we should add the national veterans foundation' contract with quadriga art ends next year and they don't plan on renewing it. when our special report continues, a charity that gets at your purse strings by tugging at your heart strings. after all, what could be more heart warming than reuniting combat vets and their service dogs? well, there's a big catch. we'll tell you about it, next. ♪ [ male announcer ] the way it moves. the way it cleans. everything about the oral-b power brush is simply revolutionary. oral-b power brushes oscillate, rotate and even pulsate to gently loosen and break up that sticky plaque with more brush movements than manual brushes and even up to 50% more than leading sonic technology brushes for a superior clean. oral-b power brushes. go to oralb.com for the latest offers.
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"the battlefield at home" continues. i want to introduce you to a woman who's been making money by tugging at your heartstrings and playing to your patriotism. her name is terri crisp. she runs a charity that claims to reunite military dogs with personnel they served with overseas. what could be more heartwarming and patriotic than that? she said the program called baghdad pups and her charity spca international were all about helping the troops. this is what she said cbs.com about her charity work. >> we've become real attached to the fact that military personnel love their animals and we want to do everything we can to keep them together. >> sounds great. she sounds nice, right? noble thing to do, right? well, that would be if in fact that is what terri crisp is going. instead, keeping them honest, drew griffin found out only a slim fraction of the $27 million she raised could even possibly have gone toward rescuing dogs.
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>> reporter: it is the televised appeal on cnn's hln -- >> our salute to the troops today is actually live in the studio. >> reporter: -- that so many of you found outrageous. >> sitting beside nugget is terri with the spca and ivy is at my feet. >> reporter: march of 2011, terri crisp with spca international was telling our viewers ivy and nugget -- >> just look at that face! >> reporter: -- were two bomb-sniffing dogs who had worked for a u.s. contractor in iraq and had been essentially abandoned by the company. she rescued them. and was trying to find them homes. along for the visit was an unwitting retired dog handler. robin meade understandably couldn't believe the story. >> so how is it that they fall through the cracks and get stranded there? that's unthinkable to me. >> it is unthinkable. that's why spca international is making sure that these dogs don't get forgotten and that they get brought home.
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>> reporter: it turns out ivy and nugget were not abandoned. they were donated, taken from their adoptive homes in iraq, a military contractor tells cnn, after terri crisp asked for them. the military contractor reed security told cnn they had no idea crisp would use ivy and nugget as fund-raising tools in the united states. for weeks cnn has been trying to track down crisp. first we were told by her spokesperson she was unavailable. we drove to terri crisp's rural home down this dirt road in the foothills of california's sierra nevada and found crisp driving straight toward us. ms. crisp? it's drew griffin with cnn. we'd sure like to talk to you. terri crisp, dog in hand, got out of her car and walked right up to our camera and acted like she was going to answer my questions. >> this is not the place to do an interview. >> reporter: well, what is the place? we've been trying to get an interview with you for a long, long time, specifically to ask you about operation baghdad
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pups. >> stephanie scott, our director of communications, has communicated with you directly. >> reporter: i understand that. can you tell us why you came on cnn and basically lied to our viewers about ivy and nugget? >> you need to talk to stephanie. >> reporter: i think you need to talk to our viewers and explain what operation baghdad pups is all about because it appears to be a fund-raising effort for your lifestyle and quadriga art quite frankly. >> like i said, you just need to contact stephanie. all of our interviews are coordinated through her. we've offered to do them with you. >> reporter: you've been on our air, ma'am. you've told our viewers that ivy and nugget were abandoned military contracting dogs which we've confirmed they were not. basically lying to our viewers. i know you got an outpouring of support and likely money after that appearance. our viewers feel like -- and so do we. cnn feels like we were lied to.
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do you have any explanation for how that happened? >> like i said, this is not the time and place. we're happy to talk to you. everything has to be coordinated through our director of communications. >> reporter: crisp is part of spca international, a group raising millions of dollars with its sympathetic fund-raising campaign called baghdad pups. according to these irs tax filings spca international has taken in me than $26 million in donations over the past three years. $23 million of that money has gone right into the coffers of the direct mail company quadriga art, not toward rescuing military dogs. what has it done with the rest of the remaining $3 million? spca international says it rescued about 447 soldiers' pets from iraq and afghanistan. but bob ottenhoff, the president of the charity watchdog group guidestar, says the numbers just don't seem to add up. >> i can't understand how to
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connect the dots between how much money is spent on fund-raising to how much money is spent on programming and what the sources of those revenues are, and i also can't really measure the impact of this organization. what difference are they really making? >> reporter: and this isn't the first time terri crisp has been at the center of a questionable charitable fund-raising drive involving animals. in 2005, after hurricane katrina, she showed up on tv stations and networks, including cnn, claiming to be rescuing stranded animals as part of her animal rescue charity called noah's wish. this is a former bookkeeper for noah's wish who wants to conceal her identity, unrelated to her work at the charity. she says she watched soon after katrina as the donations came pouring in. >> there was cash. there were checks. there were cashier's checks. there were letters, heartbreaking letters, from kids that, instead of having birthday parties, they wanted all the money to go to noah's wish to help those poor little animals.
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on a given day, we would have, oh, my gosh, easily $20,000. >> reporter: wow. >> yeah. just in checks. >> reporter: and, she says, suddenly terri crisp changed, hiring her daughter and acting as if the money was hers to keep. >> they did. they did. terri at one time said, i've worked so hard for so many years doing animal rescue, i am entitled to this money. >> reporter: salaries? >> yes. six-digit salaries. >> reporter: for mom and daughter. >> for mom and daughter. >> reporter: the bookkeeper and others went to california's attorney general which investigated. the noah's wish organization signed a settlement agreement with the state agreeing to forfeit $4 million and terri crisp was banned from being an officer or director of any charity for five years.
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>> reporter: let me ask you about noah's wish which you're no longer with. >> i can't talk about that either. >> reporter: terri crisp politely refused to talk about anything. when you were the director of noah's wish, did you pay yourself a six-figure salary along with your daughter? >> i'm not going to talk about that. >> reporter: you did, didn't you? >> i didn't set up my salary. it was done by the board of directors. >> reporter: crisp maintains she is now just an employee of spca international, not a director. and by not talking she's just following orders. i'll give you one more opportunity to explain why you came on cnn and basically lied about those two "military contract dogs." >> well, like i said, we would be happy to do an interview, but we have procedures in place, and everything has to go through stephanie. and we have been in communication. we've provided you with lots of information. and you've taken a lot of that information and not reported it correctly. >> reporter: now's your chance, ma'am. now is your chance. >> i would love to. but, as i said, i'm an employee
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of spca international. >> reporter: how much do you make? >> not a lot for what i do. >> reporter: will you give me a figure? >> no. i'm not going to reveal that. i can't answer any of your questions right now. believe me, i would love to. >> reporter: drew griffin, cnn. we'll follow the trail of money and coconut m & ms to the source and ask the supplier how he thinks these are actually helping vets. keeping them honest. be frustrat. so at university of phoenix we're working with a growing list of almost two thousand corporate partners - companies like microsoft, american red cross and adobe - to create options for you. not only that, we're using what we learn from these partners to shape our curriculum. so that when you find the job you want you'll be a perfect fit. let's get to work. ♪
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we're talking about the challenges that american combat veterans face when they get home and the questionable charities raising money they say to help. keeping them honest, it is an empty promise. remember the coconut m&ms and the useless knickknacks we mentioned at the top? the outfit that supplied them to the foundation also counts spca international as a client. you heard about them a moment ago. when drew griffin paid them a visit, he found items that could help vets. he also found a lot of useless so-called gifts in kind, including the candy that doesn't melt in your hand but might leave a bitter taste in your mouth. >> reporter: roy tidwell runs charity services international, a for-profit warehouse and distribution center in south carolina. >> we send out to hundreds of different organizations. we send on behalf of our charities out to these organizations. we just handle the shipping. >> reporter: among his 50 clients are the spca
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international and the disabled veterans national foundation. one supposedly helping pets, the other vets. and both, as we previously reported, taking in millions in donations while giving out almost nothing in cash. what they do give away is stuff, like the stuff j.d. simpson showed us the disabled veterans national foundation sent his homeless veterans shelter in alabama. he got hundreds of pairs of shiny navy dress shoes, some emergency blankets, some broken furniture, and lots and lots of coconut m & ms. >> didn't have a lot of use for 11,520 bags of coconut m & ms. >> reporter: u.s. vets, a charity in prescott, arizona, got an even stranger shipment from dvnf, chefs' coats and football pants. roy tidwell says he arranged the shipments and insists both of these charities knew what he was sending and they wanted it. the group that got the chefs
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coats have no idea why they got them. and football pants? you think there's a homeless veterans football team out there? >> absolutely. >> reporter: you do? >> absolutely. there's 300-bed transitional -- >> reporter: there's a league of homeless veterans running around playing football? >> i don't doubt that homeless vets play football, basketball. >> reporter: i'm sure. but you know i talked to those people. they said they didn't need this stuff. >> they didn't need it then they shouldn't have approved the inventory when they got it. it doesn't just show up. >> reporter: actually according to u.s. vets, the group in arizona, those football pants and everything else did just show up. we did not request chefs coats, hats, football pants or anything from charity services international, the group tells cnn. and u.s. vets has officially requested dvnf and charity services international not to ship to us any more gifts in kind.
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as for the coconut m & ms, j.d. simpson said he did get an e-mail that candy was on the way. he didn't think much of it until 11,000 bags, one-half ton of coconut m & ms arrived. chef coats and football pants and coconut m & ms may just be about worthless to homeless vets, but to the charities that sent them, they have real value. value that seems incredibly inflated when they are written down on charity tax returns. take the spca international, a group that's raised $27 million to supposedly help soldiers and their pets. the group's manager wouldn't tell us anything about the money. >> no, i'm not going to reveal that. none of it. i can't answer any of your questions right now. believe me, i would love to. >> reporter: but on its tax returns, we did learn about a shipment of animal medicines the spca international donated to an animal welfare group in nepal. cnn was provided with the invoice.
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it shows an itemized list of drugs that the charity values at $816,000, a huge gift in kind. but when the gift arrived in nepal, the charity receiving the drugs valued them for customs purposes at a mere $2,500. tidwell arranged the shipment. how can it be $816,000 here and $2,500 there? >> the value that's placed on something according to law is placed according to the exit market. it would be what you would have to pay for it in the place that it's exiting. and the -- the fact that they might be able to purchase similar medicines made in a backroom in nepal for a far lower price doesn't change the value of the medicines that are u.s. produced.
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>> reporter: but $816,000 versus $2,500? that seems crazy. >> that's outrageous. >> reporter: that didn't sound right so we cross-checked the bill of lading against the international drug pricing guide, which values drugs for nonprofit donation. according to our calculation, the charity in nepal had it just about right. $2,600, each pill worth less than two cents. >> how can i explain that? i can't. but i could go in and dig into it and try to explain it. >> reporter: he never got back to us but in an e-mail spca international says it follows industry standards and accounting regulations on placing values on donating goods. lou kingson who runs a charity base in pittsburgh called brother's brother says he's seen many charities inflate values of
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gifts in kind. why? to trick donors. >> that means that they can declare a lower overhead cost, they can claim more effect to the public than the real dollars might indicate. >> reporter: here are the numbers, in its 2011 tax return, dvnf reported $29 million in cash donations but also said it received and then donated nearly $9 million of gifts in kind. spca international received $14 million in cash donations and received and then shipped $5 million of gifts in kind. the only actual cash money involved in the gifts was the $500,000 roy tidwell was paid to arrange the shipment. >> it's a very simplistic answer to say, why don't they give away money? >> reporter: but when they're collecting tens of millions of dollars of it, it seems to be a logical question to ask. >> my portion of it is getting goods to help people who are suffering. goods that i can deliver for pennies on the dollar. and most places that get them
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are very appreciative. >> reporter: even if it is 11,000 bags of coconut m & ms. >> drew, it just defies logic this guy can go on air and say he's providing a valuable service by shipping things like coconut m&ms to charities that clearly don't need or want them. >> doesn't make any sense to the state of south carolina either, anderson. that's where tidwell's company is based. the secretary of state's office is now investigating that business, specifically asking him to provide all of the contracts that he has with these charities and spelling out what he's doing. >> also because of your reporting the senate finance committee is actually opening an investigation into some of these charities, right? >> yes. there's been a huge development there. it's focusing on the for-profit end of this, the fund-raising company connected with so many of these charities, quadriga art. we've told you about them before, the company that is
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actually making tens of millions of dollars in the charity business. well, the senate finance committee which began looking into these charities after our reporting is expanding its investigation looking right at quadriga art. anderson, that company has refused to talk to us. we've learned they're going to be called on to answer questions from the senate investigators who want to know just what we all want to know -- how can so much money be donated and hardly any of it go to veterans, animals, or the people it was intended for? >> unbelievable. drew, stick around. just ahead, what drew found when he went looking for answers at a charity called help hospitalized veterans. it claims to help sick and wounded warriors. but it's accused of misleading the irs and donors about where etc. funds actually go. oh...there you go. wooohooo....hahaahahaha! i'm gonna stand up to her! no you're not. i know. you know ronny folks who save hundreds of dollars switching to geico sure are happy.
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i'm don lemon. here are your headlines this hour. two strong aftershocks measuring 5.0 have hit myanmar. the asian nation was hit earlier by a 6.8 magnitude quake. the quakes come nine days before president barack obama is due to visit with secretary of state hillary clinton. the first visit ever by an american president. a 4.3 magnitude earthquake rattled southeast kentucky this morning. the quake was centered eight miles from whitesburg. earthquakes are not uncommon from this area. people from ohio to georgia reported feeling the shaking. the marine corps celebrating its 237th birthday. the corps was founded in 1775 by a resolution passed during the second continental congress. the celebration includes a birthday ball and a cake-cutting ceremony. those are your headline this is hour. i'm don lemon, keeping you informed, cnn, the most trusted name in news.
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a "360" special report, "the battlefield at home" is a window into how some charities are cashing in by exploiting the plight of veterans and those who want to help them. the charity we talk about next does a great job running the charity and paying the people that run it. as for actually helping the people they're claiming to help, america's wounded warriors, that's another question. here's drew griffin. >> reporter: help hospitalized veterans say it's all about raising the morale of our sick and wounded troops by passing out these craft kits in hospitals, kits designed to challenge the mind and help pass the time while vets recover. but now california authorities are seeking to make their own recovery. the civil penalties of more than $4 million for misrepresentations in soliciting. california says this charity paid excessive salaries, perks and conducted illegal deals with donated money, all for the
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benefit of some board members and officers. >> it is a shell game. and i think what we've seen at the end of the day is instead of focusing their intellectual efforts and energies and energies of the corporation on getting money to help the folks who are in need of help, our injured veterans, instead they spend all of their energy, effort and time on these shell games to move money around in order to benefit themselves. >> reporter: according to the charity's latest filings, the president of hhv, michael lynch, was paid a salary of $389,000, and that's just the start. in its complaint, california authorities say money donated for hospitalized veterans also paid for memberships in these two country clubs near lynch's home. a cost of $80,000. donated funds paid for this condominium near washington, d.c., for the use of charity executives.
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according to the complaint, while help hospitalized veterans has been raking in millions of dollars, $65 million in just the past two years, according to tax returns, the charity has misled the irs and its donors about where the funds actually go. we know $44 million has gone to fund-raising. the charity says it spent $16 million on these kits for veterans. but the california attorney general's office questions the charity's accounting. >> there have been a number of misstatements to the irs and other regulators in order to suggest that the corporation is much more efficient than it in fact is. >> reporter: and it's not the first time the allegations have been made. california congressman henry waxman has been trying to sound the alarm on help hospitalized veterans since 2008. >> as far as i'm concerned, they ought to be put in jail. it's so terrible what they're
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doing, using the plight of our veterans to make themselves rich and preying upon the good, well-meaning americans who want to help veterans and are willing to contribute to that kind of cause. >> reporter: the state of california now wants all of the charity's board members fired, including the president mike lynch. hello! mr. lynch! we approached lynch at his rural home near his operation's headquarters. he told us we were the first to bring him the news of the california compliant and said he would have something to say the next day. all right, we'll see you tomorrow. >> okay. >> reporter: in the morning, mike lynch was at his office, telling us as soon as he talks with his lawyers he'd be happy to answer questions. mr. lynch, drew griffin. >> hi, how are you? >> reporter: i'm sure you're aware of the serious charges being waged against you. >> not yet. i'm waiting to talk to the attorneys. i haven't spoken to anybody about this. so as soon as i speak with joe and them when they call this morning, be happy to speak with you. >> reporter: four hours later, michael lynch said this.
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>> i have a statement that i have prepared. it says, we hope that these unproven allegations will not diminish the more than 40 years of service hhv has provided to our nation's most valuable treasures, our veterans. we look forward to telling our story. we hope this action will not impede its ability to provide support to hospitalized veterans nationwide. thank you very much. >> reporter: well, i've got to ask you about the money, though. i mean, that doesn't answer any of the questions about the money that -- that's it? that's all you guys are going to say? >> drew, the california attorney general has filed a civil complaint against the group saying the leaders in the charity engaged in fraudulent fund-raising and unlawful activities. have they responded to the complaint? >> they have. since walking away from us in the office, michael lynch and other defendants in the complaint with the state of california have denied the allegations against them.
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while the case moving through california's courts, get this, help hospitalized veterans continues to accept donations. >> unbelievable. drew, thanks. "the battlefield at home" continues. ahead, vets who have risked their lives for the country find themselves facing another battle on the homefront, their fight to get the disability benefits they say they're entitled to. the doctors have vouched, the paperwork filed. what's the holdup? back from rou. employees are being forced to do more with less. and the need for capable leaders is greater than ever. when you see these problems do you take a step back, or do you want to dive right in? with a degree in business from capella university, you'll have the knowledge to go further in your career than you ever thought possible. let's get started at capella.edu [ man ] hello!!!! hello!!!! [ all ] ohh!
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we've been telling you in this special about charities accused of lining their own pockets at the expense of the veterans they purport to help. now another report about veterans having to fight for the disability benefits they say they're entitled to. they've risked their lives for their country but now find themselves doing battle with the very agency that's supposed to take care of them. here's randi kaye. >> reporter: mike rioux can't go to the grocery store without making a list even for just one item. he can't drive without gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turn white. and he can't stand longer than 30 minutes because of severe back pain. this is mike rioux's life post-afghanistan. >> i need to discover who i am again. i'm not asking for help for the rest of my life. i want to feel like i matter.
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>> reporter: mike's wife maggie says her husband returned from war a shell of the man he once was. gone was the fun loving, free-spirited laid-back guy he used to be. war, she says, changed him. he still has ringing in the ears from explosions. he also suffers from vertigo, headaches and has terrible anxiety. we saw it firsthand during our interview. mike was so anxious he could hardly sit still. we met at mike rioux's mother's house near phoenix, arizona, where he, his wife and daughter have been living for the last year and a half. maggie and their daughter share a bedroom, and mike sleeps every night on the living room couch. what is it like for you at 51 to be sleeping on your mother's couch? >> ashamed. i feel low. i feel how can i support my family, let alone get them a
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house. >> reporter: mike doesn't have the money for a place of their own. he can't work. fire fights and an ied blast in afghanistan left him with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. >> reporter: mike has been trying to get his disability claim processed for nearly two years. there has been lost paperwork, long wait times for appointments, and erroneous lab results. when mike was prescribed some medication, it was for a bladder infection he didn't have.
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mike first filed his claim in january 2011, right after he got back from afghanistan. in august that same year, he learned his claim was finally in review. then in december 2011 he was told to expect a decision by the end of the year. that deadline came and went. keeping them honest, we asked veterans affairs assistant secretary tommy sowers why veterans who risked their lives for this country are waiting months, even years, for disability, despite va secretary eric shinseki's promises for a quick turnaround on claims. the secretary says his goal was to have claims resolved in no more than 125 days with 98% accuracy. why hasn't that happened yet? >> well, again, this is a problem that has been decades in the making.
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we're transitioning from a paper-based system to an electronic system. and it's -- it is a huge amount -- it's a huge undertaking and task. >> reporter: is the current backlog of claims acceptable? >> it is unacceptable, and we know that. we do. >> reporter: unacceptable, yet more than a year after mike rioux filed his claim, he was still waiting. we interviewed 16 other veterans for this story. all of them told us they waited many months to get a simple disability claim resolved. in some cases more than a year. many of them also told us they weren't helped quickly enough with serious mental health issues related to ptsd. in one case, a veteran told us he had called the va suicide hotline and was told they would call him back. they never did. right now, according to the va, there are close to 900,000 claims pending. and of those, 66% have been waiting longer than secretary
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shinseki's goal of 125 days. worse, more than 228,000 claims have been pending one year or more. on average, the va says veterans wait 256 days before their claim is resolved. paul reikoff, the founder of iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, says troops are tired of the rhetoric. >> there's a difference between the speak you get out of the bureaucrats in washington and the reality of what you see on the ground. the guys and gals on the ground don't care about how many bureaucrats there are, how many pilot studies there are, how much money has been spent. they care if they have a decision back from the va. >> reporter: there's a saying among veterans about the va. they say the va's policy is delay, deny until we die. what is your response to that? >> i would say there are many veterans out there who love their va care, that absolutely love it. >> reporter: assistant secretary sowers says the va is on track
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to process 1 million claims this year and that it paid out nearly $5 billion in compensation last year. adding to delays, the va says many veterans are returning with severe and complex mental injuries and sometimes file incomplete paperwork. the backlog also increased when thousands of vets were finally allowed to file claims for agent orange and gulf war syndrome. on june 27th this year, mike finally got word his disability claim had been processed, 18 months after he'd filed. but mike was awarded only 40% disability, which works out to $659 a month. he got credit for his ptsd, but even though he had been diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury by a doctor at the va, he was denied coverage for it. >> he has it, but it's zero. >> reporter: like so many others, mike and maggie plan to appeal their disability rating,
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a process that could set them back another two years in getting their case resolved. >> and he could have been killed. every time i spoke to him on the phone, i thought this might be the last time i hear his voice. and our relationship has had to take a hit. >> that's another dimension, yeah. >> you know, we -- i'm married to a different man now. i love him as much as i've always loved him, but he's different. >> reporter: different in a way maggie and mike hope to make the va understand. that $659 a month in disability certainly doesn't cover the price they've paid for war. >> randi, what about mike and maggie, what's happened to them? >> some good news actually for them and their case. within days of our story airing, the va actually turned around and awarded mike full disability, and they are now working out details on how the
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family will receive more financial help. what's more, though, is that some viewers who watched our story decided to personally help mike and maggie and have offered them some small funds as well. so the couple is now beginning to process all of this and to try to find a house on their own. >> we wish them the best. randi, thanks. we'll be right back. r the silve- still the most dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickups on the road. and now we've also been recognized for lowest total cost of ownership -- based on important things, like depreciation, fuel, and maintenance costs. and now when you come in, you can trade up to get a total value of $8,000 on a 2012 chevy silverado all-star edition. from outstanding value to standing the test of time, chevy runs deep.
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